Saturday 10 June 2017

Movie Review: Beauty And The Beast (2017)

A musical fantasy romance, Beauty And The Beast is a well-made but superfluous live-action remake of the 1991 animated classic.

In rural France, a cold-hearted Prince (Dan Stevens) is cursed by an enchantress and turned into a frightening Beast. All the staff members of his lavish palace are turned into furniture pieces and the castle itself is plunged into a frozen darkness. Years later Belle (Emma Watson) is a restless young woman growing up in a nearby village. Unlike everyone else in her community, Belle values her independence and thirsts for books and knowledge, while fending off the attentions of the insufferably narcissistic local hunk and ace hunter Gaston (Luke Evans). Belle's father Maurice (Kevin Kline) is eccentric but loving, although he has never told Belle how her mother died.

When Maurice takes a wrong turn in the forest and is captured by the Beast, the fearless Belle bargains for her father's freedom and replaces him as the Beast's prisoner. The candelabra Lumière (Ewan McGregor), the mantel clock Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) and the teapot Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) are aware that the Beast's only hope to turn back into a Prince is to fall in love and have it reciprocated before all the petals fall off a magic rose. Encouraged by the staff-members-as-house-objects, a courtship ensues between Belle and the Beast, enraging the jealous Gaston.

Directed by Bill Condon, Beauty And The Beast enjoys a spirited Emma Watson performance and the expected dazzling CGI effects to bring plenty of furniture objects to life. The costumes, makeup and sets are stunning recreations of the animated aesthetics from 1991. Virtually a scene-for-scene remake, the live action version is undoubtedly polished but struggles to define its purpose. This version is over two hours of the same story told in the same way with the same songs, with many of the iconic scenes captured in the same style.

A story filled with talking, singing and dancing candles, clocks, dressers, teapots and harpsichords, not to mention acrobatic dishes and a flirtatious dust feather, is always going to be more imaginative in animated form. While young children will undoubtedly be enthralled by these objects coming to life in non-animated form, the film is more mechanical and less magical than the original.

A couple of new songs are added, but otherwise the well-loved original soundtrack comes back with spirited deliveries by the cast members. Apart from the studiously mission-oriented furniture items, Josh Gad as Gaston's sidekick LeFou adds some levity and gets some of the better laughs. Stanley Tucci and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are part of the furniture ensemble.

Thematically not much has changed. Belle was ahead of her time in 1991 and she remains here a spunky free thinker, standing up for herself, ignoring the naysayers and making her own decisions. The story continues to walk the fine line between celebrating non-superficial romance and confirming the power of the Stockholm Syndrome.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this Beauty And The Beast, other than it has literally all been done before.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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